It’s just a number

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

My husband is currently recovering from a serious “bicycle malfunction” accident that occurred in the early part of August. As a triathlete and avid cyclist, he is in very good shape, and keeps wondering why it is taking so long to achieve a full recovery. After all, he is healthy, fit and young…well, young by my standards, anyway, being 7 years my junior! As well-meaning friends remind him, “You are not 20 anymore!”

While most individuals have experienced this very situation, and accept it as a fact of life, its corollary is often ignored, that of building muscle, like accident recovery, becoming more of a challenge as we age. Does this mean that after age 40, men are destined to a life of reclining in rocking chairs? Certainly not!

Training in the gym can be just as intense and enjoyable, yielding satisfying results, once one surpasses the Big 4-0 birthday. The format, however, may have to be altered. Instead of focusing solely on movements that isolate and train a single muscle group, professionals in the field propose creating a workout that takes contains as many compound exercises as possible. By training in this fashion, the body is able to maximize and take advantage of its natural production of testosterone. This is an important consideration, since after the age of 20, testosterone production begins to drop down.

Here is an example of such a compound-exercise training plan:

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Combining back muscles, biceps and triceps (or shoulders, chest and abdominals) into a single workout will require larger movements. Choose three exercises that encompass more than a single muscle group in the upper body, and perform three sets of 15 repetitions for each exercise. The same holds true when training the legs. Quads, hamstrings and calf exercises can be woven together to improve strength while generating lean muscle mass. For the lower body workout, perform three sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise.

If you are seeking a cardio or higher-intensity workout along with your strength training, simply end each cycle with a set of each exercise, eight repetitions, with only 30 seconds of rest in between. Repeat up to three such cycles. You will feel the heat rising, I assure you!

As fall edges into winter, inclement weather often forces us to stay indoors and skip the gym. Keep in mind that you can create this same style of training at home, requiring no external equipment, using simply your bodyweight.

Athletes over 40: embrace your age, don’t hide from it. There is plenty of muscle yet to be discovered!